HAMDEN, Conn. – In what amounts to a game of inches, the Quinnipiac softball team didn't get the bounces to go their way on Saturday as they fell 4-2 and 9-7 in a two-game set against LIU Brooklyn from QU Softball Field. With two runners on in the bottom of the seventh with two out, sophomore Nikki Barba (San Diego, Calif.) smashed a pitch that went all the way to the left field wall but was gloved for the final out just a couple feet away from walking away with the walk-off shot in game two. Quinnipiac's two losses move them to 7-23 (1-3 NEC) on the season while the Blackbirds improve to 7-29 (3-3 NEC).
The Bobcat offense was kept quiet in the first game of the afternoon as Blackbird ace Cassie Vondrak tossed a complete game six-hitter allowing just two unearned runs and striking out three. Quinnipiac had multiple chances to strike first but couldn't push the run across as they left five runners on-base through the first three innings. Vondrak really showed her moxie in the bottom of the second as the Bobcats had runners on second and third with no one out but couldn't manage one run out of the scoring opportunity.
The Blackbirds worked a little two out magic in the fourth as Nichole Toven doubled, Madison Zymkowitz singled Toven home and then Celinna Cosio doubled home Zymkowitz to take a 2-0 lead. Junior Katie Alfiere (Beacon Falls, Conn.) lifted Bobcats starter Sydney Robey (Glenmoore, Pa.) and managed to induce a pop out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
The Bobcats then bounced back with two runs of their own in the fourth. Senior Kortney Kesses (Woodbridge, Conn.) singled home senior Bridget Figmic (Stratford, Conn.) who led off the inning reaching on an error. Later in the inning, senior Lauren Salgado (Covina, Calif.) singled with two runners in scoring position to score Alfiere from third but freshman Courtney Solt (Boyertown, Pa.) was gunned down at home to end the inning with the score tied, 2-2.
Defensive woes continued to plague the Bobcats in the fifth as two costly errors led to the two decisive Blackbird runs. Whitney West first reached on an error and then scored on a Lauren Morizi single to right that was misplayed in the outfield and led to the go-ahead run. A sacrifice fly brought in the fourth LIU Brooklyn run as they took a 4-3 lead.
Vondrak retired six straight Bobcats in the fifth and sixth before allowing a leadoff single to Alfiere in the seventh. She bore down and took any hope of a comeback away after inducing a double play and groundout to end the game.
Quinnipiac's offense broke out in the second game as they matched their season-high with 16 base hits through the seven innings but couldn't convert their opportunities as they left 12 runners on-base. Sophomore Jordan Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.) highlighted the Bobcat effort with her seventh home run of the season and 22nd of her career as she went 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored in the second game. Solt recorded her 11th multi-hit game of the season as she went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the second game and Alfiere also went 2-for-4 as she led the team with four hits through the two-game set. Sophomore Brittany Cyr (Southington, Conn.) also played well with two hits including her first career triple in the second game after not starting the first game.
In what was a marathon second game lasting nearly three hours in what was freezing cold temperatures with the wind chill, the Bobcats worked their way through the cold early with five runs through the first two frames. After LIU Brooklyn scored two runs in the opening inning on a two-run double from Ariana Lopez, the Bobcats notched five hits and four runs of their own in their half of the first. Solt and Salgado both singled and Barba reached on an error to load the bases with one out. Paolucci came through with an RBI single to right field, Figmic then knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly and Kesses hit a big two-out two-run single as Quinnipiac claimed a 4-2 lead.
After the Blackbirds tied the score back up at 4-4 in the second, Barba cranked her eighth double of the season out to right center that scored Solt from second to retake the lead. The Bobcats had another opportunity to extend their lead as the Blackbirds decided to intentionally walk Paolucci to load the bases with one out but two pop ups ended the inning.
LIU Brooklyn tied the game in the fourth and took the lead with a four-run fifth inning highlighted by a Morizi two-run single up the middle as well as a leadoff homer from Toven to make it a 9-5 game in favor of the Blackbirds.
Robey entered the game in the fifth and pitched brilliantly, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out two batters as she calmed the game down and gave her team a chance to walk away with the victory. The Bobcats started their climb back into the game with Paolucci's two-run home run in the sixth to close the gap to two runs. Figmic followed with a single, prompting a pitching change from Nicole Archer to Vondrak who shut down the Bobcat lineup with two straight outs to end the inning.
With the game heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Bobcats needed some magic and very nearly turned in a triumphant comeback victory. Vondrak induced two groundouts to start the inning and appeared to have the decision in control until Salgado slapped a single back to the mound and Alba singled to second base to set the stage for Barba. The leading Bobcat hitter stepped into the plate representing the game-winning run and drove a 2-2 pitch out to deep left field that appeared to have a chance. The left fielder however, tracked the ball and reached her glove up at the warning track to make the running catch for the third and final out.
The Bobcats will have to move on and try to salvage some wins this weekend with another NEC home doubleheader tomorrow against Mount St. Mary's starting at Noon.
Contact: Maxx McNall; email@example.com